Like many Americans, I spent the weekend judging John Edwards. Edwards’ presidential campaign was steeped in morality-- a populist condemnation of the rich and a promise to fight for those left behind. In retrospect, his judgment on the wealthy looks like a case of seeing the speck in others’ eyes without recognizing the log in his own, exactly the kind of self righteousness that Jesus warned against in Matthew 7:1-5. (The full passage is here).
Only later, after I had been thinking about specks and logs for some time, did it occur to me that Jesus’s warning to “Judge Not!” applies to me too. Judging our politicians is only one of many ways our culture seems to encourage subtle and not so subtle condemnation of those around us. Nearly every reality show on TV derives its popularity from the opportunity it gives to its viewers to cast judgment on the hapless people in the show. Watching dysfunctional families and clueless celebrities enables us to exalt ourselves, at least a little and at least in our own minds. In a real sense, ours is a judgment society.
One of the most powerful examples of a community that genuinely took Jesus’s instruction to heart is the Amish community that was roiled by the murders of five of its children at a one room schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania two years ago. Rather than condemning the family of the murderer, as surely they were tempted to do, the community forgave the murderer’s family and has reached out to them. (A friend just highly recommended Amish Grace, by Kraybill, Nolt and Weaver-Zercher, which tells this story.)
If I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure I could do what they’ve done. But it may be possible– I pray it is– to spend more time in the coming days grieving for the Edwards family and less time playing the judgment game.